DTI eyes possible reopening of dine-in restaurants

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola 

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is looking to allow dining in restaurants to help food businesses survive amid the COVID-19 restrictions.

DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, at the resumption of the Senate Committee of the Whole's hearing on the government's COVID-19 response and stimulus plans on Thursday afternoon, May 21, acknowledged that dine-ins contribute a bulk of the profits of food businesses.


Under the community quarantine, however, restaurants are only allowed to operate for deliveries and take-out orders.

"Tama po, napakahalaga ng dine-in (Yes, dine-in is important). Sa ngayon nabubuhay sila sa take-out and deliveries (At present, they only survive thru take-outs and deliveries) . We were told that about 70 percent of revenues nanggagaling sa dine-in (come from customers who are dining in)," Lopez said, responding to Senator Cynthia Villar who raised the idea.

Lopez said the DTI is currently studying the possibility of allowing dine-in under the general community quarantine

The DTI will be visiting on Satuday some fastfood restaurants to look into the application of health and safety protocols.

"Kapag tayo po na-kumbinsi na safe po kumain at mai-implement 'yong minimum safety protocols (If we are convinced that it safe to eat within the restaurants), we will allow, we will propose or endorse the opening of dine-in, kahit 50 percent, for them to have a social distancing," the Trade Secretary said.

Before this, Villar asked the DTI if the government could consider allowing dining in restaurants during the quarantine.

She said that while lockdown rules have eased to allow selected businesses to resume operations, food establishments continue to suffer from their lack of profits.

She cited for instance the restaurants in her family's malls "where no customers go to eat".

"Kasi maraming restaurant, hindi sila magaling sa deliveries, magaling sila sa sit-in (Because a lot of restaurants are not capable enough to serve their customers thru deliveries, they are better at serving people who sit in)," she said.

"Naawa ako sa restaurants (I pity the restaurants)," she lamented.

She noted that 95 percent of businesses in the country are micro, small and medium enterprises, and 50 percent of which are engaged in food.

"Pag hindi niyo binuksan ang sit-in restaurants, magdedeclare silang lahat ng bankruptcy (If you don't open up sit-in restaurants, all of them will declare bankrupcty," Villar warned.

"I hope you will lobby for that...kasi mamatay sila eh (because it will kill these businesses), and they will lay-off all of their employees, which is very bad for us," she later said.

According to Lopez, there is a "good chance" that the IATF will allow dining in restaurants in areas under the general community quarantine. "We just have to review the health protocols," he said.